Orientation

Matrifocal Orientation

Pattern ID: 
617
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
9
Lori Blewett
The Evergreen State College
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Because almost all contemporary societies are androcentric (male-centered), women's needs, interests, ideas, and perspectives on the world are often ignored or trivialized. Androcentrism perpetuates a patriarchal system that oppresses women and severely constrains (and damages) men's lives as well. An orientation toward social change that gives voice to women's perspectives and strives to replace patriarchy with an egalitarian, matrifocal society would go a long way toward creating a just and peaceful world for all.

Context: 

Although societies differ in the degree and form which male dominance takes, male privilege is generally maintained through systems of beliefs, laws, discriminatory practices, and cultural norms (including direct or indirect perpetuation of male violence). Patriarchy concentrates social, political, and economic power in the hands of men at the expense of women. Because gender oppression is ancient and insidious, a conscious effort is needed to recognize the gendered dimensions of social problems. Looking at the world with a matrifocal orientation can help create contexts in which women-centered analyses of social problems are fully incorporated into problem-solving processes.

Discussion: 

A matrifocal orientation to social change draws directly on women’s experience and knowledge and puts the needs of oppressed women at the center of social transformation. Matrifocal societies, real and imagined, do not challenge patriarchy by offering its mirror image--with women in positions of dominance over men. Rather, they embrace values traditionally seen as feminine: peace, nurturance, cooperation, and care for those most in need. A matrifocal society is one in which dominance over others is not supported (neither as an individual or collective goal). The needs and contributions of women are valued equally with those of men. Women’s interests are not special interests but human interests. Social distinctions between males and females may be minimized [depending on the culture], and those biological/social differences that remain do not inhibit women’s full participation in the society. A matrifocal orientation to social change recognizes that “the rising of the women means the rising of the [human] race” (1).

The need for women’s voices to be heard in order for society to become more just, has been recognized by progressive social reformers for centuries (and probably longer). This awareness led to the development of women-centered movements throughout the world. As a social/political orientation, the Matrifocus pattern is reflected in both feminist organizing in first world nations and community-centered women’s organizing in Third world nations. Historically, many Third World women’s organizations have been concerned with conditions of economic hardship, displacement, and state-sponsored violence affecting their communities as a whole, while first world feminist groups have focused more exclusively on women’s social and political rights. In recent decades the issue of violence against women has been a common theme of transnational women organizing (2). Regardless of the issue, whenever women organize with the goal of creating a more just and sustainable society, they are endeavoring to insert their voices and their perspectives into the public debate. By doing so, they are subverting the androcentric norm of male power and female silence.

Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo, for example, were able to subvert androcentric norms after initially making use of them. The simultaneous cultural respect for motherhood and perceived political irrelevance of women, allowed Las Madres de Plaza de Mayo to protest relatively unhindered at a time when public demonstrations were officially illegal in Argentina. By also making themselves visible beyond national borders, Las Madres fostered a successful international advocacy network to pressured government investigation into state sponsored murders during the Pinochet regime. The powerful example of Argentinean mothers refusing to be silent has inspired other women’s groups, such as Women in Black in Israel and elsewhere, to stand out publicly against state sponsored violence.

Not surprisingly, many organizations that can be described as having a matrifocal orientation have been “women’s” organizations. But this is not required by the pattern. Labor groups reflect a matrifocal orientation when they strive for gender equity policies, family leave policies, the right to organize in traditionally female occupations, and increased female union leadership. Anti-globalization groups demonstrate a matrifocal orientation when they recognize the significant impact of trade policies on women, and when they give voice to women’s knowledge as farmers, workers, parents, and preservers of culture. Environmental groups like the Chipko movement in India or EcoFeminists in the U.S. reflect a matrifocal orientation when they draw upon and amplify the voices of women, highlight reproductive issues as environmental issues, and speak with reference to the future of all children on the planet.

Regardless of whether a group consists of men or women or both, having a matrifocal orientation means that people ask, “How is the problem we perceive exacerbated by patriarchy, and how has our way of responding to it been limited by patriarchal thinking?" Resisting androcentric norms by putting women’s perspectives in the center, rather than the periphery, of social debates is a first step toward undermining patriarchy and the social ills it perpetuates.

One problem with the Matrifocal pattern is its potential to reinforce male-female dichotomies. Whenever people speak up for traditionally “feminine” goals and values—particularly when they use the role of motherhood for political leverage--they run the risk of reifying patriarchal beliefs about the essential nature of women. Many reactionary movements have argued that their goals and strategies are in the best interests of women, and female voices are often used to promote these messages. Many western feminists, for example, have been hesitant to organize under the banner of motherhood not only because many women chose not to be mothers, but also because such representations may inadvertently bolster the idea that motherhood is women’s single most important function in society. Activist who use a matrifocal orientation must be careful to distinguish between biological femaleness and matrifocal goals. There are many males that value peace, nurturance, care for those in needs, collaborative problem solving, and an end to reward-oriented hierarchies. There are also many females that are not interested in creating a just society and prefer to amass what benefits they can within the current social order; some fully support patriarchy. Matrifocal is not synonymous with female or maternal.

A second problem with a matrifocal orientation is the misperception that everyone who adopts it will, or should, agree on particular social goals and political strategies. They wont. What is shared by people who adopt a matrifocal orientation is a consciousness that overcoming problems of violence, economic oppression, and gender oppression, requires replacing patriarchy with an alternative social order, and that increasing women’s participation in the public sphere is one step in such a transformation.

Solution: 

A matrifocal orientation keeps the system of patriarchy visible so that alternatives can be imagined and created.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Because almost all societies are male centered, women’s needs, interests, ideas, and perspectives are often ignored or trivialized. Matrifocal communities are organized around values traditionally seen as “feminine” such as peace, nurturance, cooperation, and care for others. A Matrifocal Orientation that gives voice to women’s perspectives would help promote a just and peaceful world for all. Women’s interests are not special interests, but human interests.

Pattern status: 
Released

Social Responsibility

Pattern ID: 
875
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
8
Stewart Dutfield
Marist College
Burl Humana
Kenneth Gillgren
Gillgren Communication Services, Inc.
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Things don’t get better by themselves. Without purposeful intervention, organizations of all kinds lose sight of their social responsibilities.

Context: 

Any organization that sees itself without social responsibility will change only in the face of financial penalty or purposeful intervention. Where social benefits form all or part of an organization’s purpose, this alone does not guarantee positive achievements. Any organization with a shared vision of social responsibility, whether a for-profit corporation or a not-for-profit group working for the public good, needs to deliver what it promises. A passion for principles drives the efforts of individuals and citizen groups to make corporations, professions and governments more responsive; the more open and accountable they are, the more responsive they will become.

Discussion: 

The striving for social responsibility takes many forms. Grameen Bank (www.grameen-info.org) and its founder, Muhammad Yunus, received the 2006 Nobel Prize for furthering peace and human rights by providing economic opportunities that conventional banks would not. Working Assets (www.workingassets.com) preassigns a portion of its revenues to activist causes. Socially responsible investing uses published criteria to recommend investment vehicles and to initiate stockholder actions in support of particular principles.

Advocacy organizations pursue a wide variety of principles. The Saltwater Institute advocates five values: (a) family and community responsibility, (b) respect and appreciation for the natural world, (c) service and stewardship, (d) the necessity for work and productivity, and (e) an intentional commitment to goodness (www.saltwater.org/our_story/beliefs.htm). Scientists for Global Responsibility (www.sgr.org.uk) opt for openness, accountability, peace, social justice and environmental sustainability, while Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility (www.cpsr.org) address technological problems in the light of technology-related principles.

Until the late 19th century, corporate charters in the United States confined a company to a specific purpose in the common good. For example, an 1823 act of the New York legislature incorporated the Delaware and Hudson Canal Company with a charter to build and maintain, with private investment, a canal between the Delaware and Hudson rivers and to charge regulated fees for the transport of coal and other goods. Any other activity by the corporation, such as setting up a bank, required an amendment to its charter (Whitford, 1905). A recent form of the socially-responsible corporate charter is the Community Interest Company ( www.cicregulator.gov.uk).

In 1970, the economist Milton Friedman wrote that "The social responsibility of business is to maximize its profits." Invoking the authority of Adam Smith to claim that society most benefits if everyone pursues selfish advantage, Friedman paved the way for some businesses to ignore the wider impacts of their pursuit of low costs, increasing sales, and big financial returns, and to consider themselves accountable only to owners and regulators. In turn, this gave rise to the tyranny of the financial bottom line; any attempt at purposeful social progress needs to overcome the myth that social progress takes place of its own accord.

Activism on behalf of principles other than self-interest or convenience is necessary to remind selfish businesses of their social responsibility, and to prevent other organizations from losing touch with theirs. This activism can take place outside the organization, in citizen groups and political platforms, or within the organization as the individual actions of the tempered radical (Meyerson, 1995) and in the form of changes to policy and governance. In these efforts, the struggle of advocacy is at least as important as the specific principles being advocated. Social responsibility does not depend upon any one principle of conduct.

To be socially responsible is to be accountable to a full range of interested parties for the achievement of clearly-stated goals. It calls for: (a) clear vision, values and strategy for a better future; (b) understanding and management of expectations; (c) actions compatible with vision and values; (d) monitoring of outcomes; (e) accountability for results; and (f) a culture and governance that makes this possible. A socially responsible organization acts on the basis of clear values, which may explicitly include measurable results, transparency and accountability (e.g. www.gfusa.org/about_us/values).

Any organization has internal and external stakeholders: customers and constituencies which both contribute to and benefit from the organization's work. For example, the Citizens Advice Bureau (2004) considers stakeholders to include potential and actual clients, volunteers, staff, partners, policy makers, and government bodies. No two of these customers of constituencies have the same expectations. A socially responsible organization makes itself accountable to stakeholders according to the unique expectations of each group, and always consistently with its values and strategy.

Accountability to stakeholders measures actual performance against predetermined goals. It does not simply describe what an organization has achieved in the past, but requires commitment to achievements in advance. To be accountable is to measure indicators of performance that affect stakeholders, and to make the results transparent—that is, to report outcomes to stakeholders as evidence that the organization is fulfilling its goals and enacting its values. One example is a set of performance indicators for microfinance institutions ( www.swwb.org/English/2000/performance_standards_in_microfinance.htm).

Any organization devoted to serving others is measured every time someone walks in or logs on—indeed, whenever anyone even drives past the building or happens upon the web site. A commitment to achieve social benefits does not absolve a not-for-profit from thinking of the people it serves as customers, and to consider its relations with them as marketing (Brinckerhoff, 2003). To clearly understand perspectives from outside the organization is a first step toward measuring and improving the organization's impact.

Social responsibility requires accountability, but for what and to whom? Several frameworks exist for measures of accountability. The Balanced Scorecard (Kaplan & Norton, 1992) suggests four linked categories: financial, customer, internal business, and innovation and learning. These categories are linked to strategy because improvement in any one will benefit all the others (except that no direct relationship is claimed between the first and the last). Epstein and Birchard (1999) propose three categories: financial, operational, and social.

A "stakeholder scorecard" (Epstein & Birchard, 1999, p. 96) uses the major stakeholders as categories of performance measures. This approach directly measures how the organization serves its stakeholders, and orients strategy towards those with an interest in the outcomes. Stakeholders may fall into predetermined categories, such as shareholders, customers, employees and communities (Epstein & Birchard, 1999); alternatively, they may simply appear as a list of specific categories of stakeholder most important to the organization.

No organization, whether for-profit or not-for-profit, is socially responsible simply by virtue of its intent to achieve social benefits. Action consistent with the organization's espoused values demands a culture—ethical assumptions, values, beliefs and behaviors—that pervades the organization from top to bottom. Without a culture of demonstrable consistency between espoused and practiced values, claims to social responsibility are at best window-dressing, and at worst a symptom of a demoralized, failing and unethical organization. By contrast, a culture of accountability makes an organization more effective and more sustainable; social responsibility demands nothing less.

Solution: 

Whether from without or within, advocate for principles to help for-profit corporations realize their social responsibility in addition to the responsibility they feel toward stockholders, and to spur not-for-profit organizations, government bodies, and professions to keep their social responsibility in view. One principle that applies everywhere is that of openness and accountability.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Having social benefits as part of an organization's mission, does not guarantee positive achievements. Any organization with a shared vision of Social Responsibility needs to deliver what it promises. Activism on behalf of principles other than self-interest or convenience is necessary to remind organizations of their Social Responsibility, and to prevent other organizations from losing touch with theirs.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
Photographs in the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Political Settings

Pattern ID: 
760
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
7
Jonathan Barker
University of Toronto
Version: 
2
Problem: 

The venues of political action are changing dramatically with the proliferation of new kinds of non-governmental organizations, the broadening coverage of the Internet, and the actions of governments to redefine and often reduce the scope of their direct interventions. We need concepts to describe these changes and assess their implications, both negative and positive, for democratic participation.

Context: 

Innovative political or social action fits into the existing field of popular and governmental activity. What political settings—as gatherings to inform, discuss, assert, dispute, debate, and decide important public matters—are available? What are their biases about who can participate, how matters are discussed, and what issues can be raised? Where do particular settings fit in the hierarchy of power? How do economic and cultural forces and physical threats influence the process? Will a new action create a new setting or alter an existing one? By asking questions like these, activists will better grasp the changes they are asking people to make, and researchers can analyze the changing shape and structure of political space over long or short spans of time. 

Discussion: 

Political settings are the basic physical units of collective political action. Each instance of a political setting has its own unique location in space and time. Many recur on a regular basis. Meetings and demonstrations are common types of political setting. Here are two recent examples from reports about political change in Venezuela. One is a small-scale political setting, a barrio meeting; the other describes two large-scale, competing political marches:

The Meeting
Nidia Lopez stood on one side of the brick built shack. It was like one of the thousands that made up the barrio of Andres Bello. The barrios, or slums, are where the majority of the Venezuelan population lives. Thirty people looked at Nidia. Some of them stood outside in the mud. The building was too small to fit them all.
Nidia spoke and her voice was clear and loud. She said, "There are 23 families living on the street in this barrio. In eight years what has this government done for them? In three years what has this Committee done for them? They need help now! What are we going to do for them now?"
The "we" that Nidia was talking about was the Urban Land Committee for the Andres Bello barrio. The Urban Land Committees...exist everywhere there are barrios in Venezuela and barrios are everywhere in Venezuela.
When barrio problems are discussed...the most common suggestion is to get organized. At the Andres Bello meeting, barrio resident Hector Madera said, “When the people of our barrio have a problem they mustn’t rely on the media, or go and whisper in the ear of a friend in a Chavista party, we need to organize ourselves.”
Nidia Lopez felt the best way the Andres Bello CTU could help the 23 homeless families was to take the appeal to the President. Everybody else in the meeting argued it was more important that organization happen first.
The families should...discuss with each other about what they wanted. They should also talk with the owner of the mansion. Only then should they approach the government for assistance if they still needed it.
Madera said the barrios needed to organize together, "When organized we can involve the people from nearby barrios, like Chapellin, and get their support. We will help them and them us. Together we solve our problems ourselves. We can march together."
( Source: Entitled to Democracy:Venezuela’s Urban Land Committees and Participatory Democracy. Saturday, Feb 11, 2006. By Alex Holland – Venezuelanalysis.com)

The Marches
Venezuelans celebrated International Worker’s Day yesterday with two large marches that wound through the streets of Caracas. One in support of the Chavez-led "Bolivarian Revolution," and the other with the opposition. This marks the sixth year in a row that Venezuelan workers have held separate marches on May 1st.
The opposition march was led by the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers (CTV) which, according to the Venezuelan daily El Universal, called for the participants to march for increased salaries, back-pay, a dignified social security system, and freedom for CTV President Carlos Ortega, who was sentenced last year to 16 years in prison for his role in the two-month 2002-3 oil industry shut down.
"Things are turbulent. With this government everything is turbulent," yelled 15 year- CTV veteran, Israel Masa, from the opposition march. "That’s why we are marching -- to demand transparency in the next elections, because we in the opposition know that we are the majority and that we are the true democrats."
The pro-government march was led by the National Workers Union (UNT) and officially entitled, the "Bolivarian March Against Imperialism and Free Trade Agreements," highlighting the international importance of today’s celebrations, and calling attention to the recent motives for Venezuela’s withdrawal from the Community of Andean Nations.
"This demonstration is a struggle against imperialism and the conspiratorial plans of US imperialism against Venezuela," announced Venezuelan National Assembly Representative Dario Vivas ...at the start of the march. "The people of Venezuela are ready to do whatever necessary to guarantee our liberty."
(Source: Opposition and Chavez Supporters March Separately for Mayday in Venezuela, Tuesday, May 02, 2006. By Michael Fox - Venezuelanalysis.com)

As these two examples show, the respective contexts -- social structure, rules of entry and action, physical layout, and cultural expectations -- heavily influence the quality of participation and the content of decisions and messages. “Political setting” is a particularly useful concept for describing political action in context, the venues of face-to-face political communication that are the building-blocks of public political life. They encompass all occasions in which issues and needs of general importance to a community or a society are discussed, contested, and decided. They may be open and democratic, but very often they explicitly or implicitly bar certain groups, certain perspectives, and certain issues. It is important to investigate how they filter participants and ideas.

Although many of meetings and debates that seek to influence community-wide matters take place in government institutions, an increasing proportion occur in voluntary associations, social movement groupings, and invitation-only meetings. Internet discussions demonstrate the growing importance of virtual political settings and raise questions about how they differ from face-to-face meetings and how uneven access to computers affects political outcomes. The rules and culture of each setting influence the quality of communication, deliberation, and decision-making it embodies. Are they open or secret? Which voices do they amplify or exclude? What about women, poor people, people of low status, different cultures and religions? What is their impact?

The idea of political setting draws upon ecological psychology’s concept of "behavior settings," but it puts the focus on activity that aims to influence public policy. It opens the door into exploration of the evolving pattern language exemplified in the face-to-face political actions from below that are emerging in meetings and demonstrations around the world with all their limitations as well as their strengths.

Solution: 

Seeing and analyzing popular politics through the lens of political settings promises to generate a useful and realistic view of the political resources available for popular action and of the obstacles that such action faces.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Political action venues are changing with the proliferation of new kinds of nongovernmental organizations, the broadening reach of the Internet, and the actions of governments. Political Settings are the basic units of collective political action.The idea of political settings opens the door to exploration of evolving civic intelligence exemplified by political actions from below.

Pattern status: 
Released

Global Citizenship

Pattern ID: 
866
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
6
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project
Lori Blewett
The Evergreen State College
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Rights and responsibilities as narrowly defined by citizenship in a particular nation-state can result in an us-against-them mind-set, leading to biased interpretations of information, and even paranoia and hostility to other countries. This understanding can also be used to deny the reality or meaning of oppression and suffering in other countries and to eschew responsibility for helping to redress these problems. Citizenship also determines access to health care, education, and other rights —rights that arguably should be universal. A narrow interpretation of citizenship implicitly cedes power to national governments whose defense of national interest can sometimes be used against its own citizens who have no legal access to a ‘‘higher authority,’’ and can restrict the participation of citizens in global affairs and problem solving.

Context: 

In the waning years of the twentieth century, people worldwide increasingly began to notice the world outside their own. At the same time nation-states, facing the new realities of economic globalization, seemed to be losing their ability—as well as their interest —in promoting the welfare of their own citizens and the natural world. As John Urry (1999) stated, ‘‘More generally, global money markets, world travel, the Internet, globally recognized brands, globally organized corporations, the Rio Earth summit, ‘global celebrities’ living as global citizens and so on, all speak of modes of social experience which transcend each nation-state and its constitution of the national citizen.’’ Global climate change, natural resource depletion, economic inequity, and other vast problems that humankind now faces can be added to that list.

Discussion: 

Citizenship is generally described as the formal relationship, usually codified in law, of a person (the citizen) and a state and often is delineated in terms of rights and responsibilities. Its site has shifted from the Greek city-state, where the idea first took hold, to the modern nation-state, whose birth is linked to the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, which established the convention that countries and its citizens do not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries.

Many nationalist political movements —the eighteenth-century American Revolution through the twentieth-century Palestinian Liberation struggle —emphasize national identity and citizenship to assert their right to self-determination and political autonomy from oppressive colonial states. But history is also rife with examples of nationalism used to oppress and remove minority, and sometimes majority, populations. At the same time, the liberal concept of citizenship based on a shared national identity offers the promise of overcoming religious and ethnic divisions. From the perspective of economically disadvantaged and oppressed subpopulations, however, the promise of inclusivity and shared interests has fallen flat.

The transnational realm of global capital in a free-market world, requires global civic response. As national laws are superseded by international treaties and trade agreements, individuals’ rights and obligations become governed by global institutions —the reality that citizens of debt-ridden nations are well aware of. The question is not whether we are global citizens. The question is what form our citizenship will take. What are our rights and responsibilities toward global governing institutions and structures. Should governing bodies be directly elected by the governed? How will the rights of the weakest be protected from the strongest in the global polity? What counts as a right? What responsibilities do global citizens have to one another?

We need to ask what types of globalization are empowering to individuals and define and construct ones likely to lead to collective problem solving. Currently there are few opportunities for people to help address shared problems. Unfortunately this lack of opportunity comes at time when many problems are global in nature and require global thinking and acting. In addition to preventing people (and their ideas and other resources) from contributing to the general welfare, narrow versions of citizenship are used to establish arbitrary categories of deservedness. Our narrow version of citizenship makes it less likely that global solutions that work for everybody are developed. The opposite, in fact, is more likely: that collective dilemmas are ‘‘resolved’’ in ways that are relatively bad for everybody—or nearly everybody.

There are two useful avenues for people to explore to make headway toward realizing this pattern. The first is to assume the role and responsibilities without seeking permission from an authoritative source; obtaining permission would of course be impossible given that no authoritative source exists that can bestow such a designation. Assuming this role means thinking—and acting—globally, adopting the perspective that the world is densely interconnected, its general health is important, and well-intentioned and well-informed citizens can play a positive role. The second is to actively work toward some formal recognition of global citizenship by, for example, helping to define and develop the intellectual and administrative scaffolding that does not currently exist. Both of these paths could be undertaken individually or through working with existing or new organizations that work in these areas.

When Diogenes, the Greek philosopher, stated that he was a citizen of the world, he was refusing, according to Martha Nussbaum (1994), ‘‘to be defined simply by his local origins and group memberships, associations central to the self-image of a conventional Greek male; he insisted on defining himself in terms of more universal aspirations and concerns.’’ But to some scholars, the nation-state is the rightful and permanent wellspring of citizenship, and alternative conceptualizations, however tentative and speculative, are damned as heretical. Michael Walzer (2002), for example, finds it difficult to contemplate the idea since ‘‘no one has ever offered me [world] citizenship, or described the naturalization process, or enlisted me in the world’s institutional structures, or given me an account of its decision procedures ( I hope they are democratic), or provided me with a list of the benefits and obligations of citizenship, or shown me the world’s calendar and the common celebrations and commemorations of its citizens.’’ As an ironic and unintended side effect of this critique, Walzer provided a useful (if overly formal) laundry list of practical objectives that proponents of global citizenship need to consider.

Ann Florini (2005) builds a case that the Internet may help create a global consciousness analogous to the nationalist consciousness that the printed word helped inspire. The printing press led to a reconciliation of regional differences and a cheaper and faster way to reach constituencies that were too remote for effective collaboration. This then played a strong role in the development of the nation-state and, hence, nation-state-based citizenship. In similar fashion, Florini surmises that a new global consciousness could help usher in broader, more inclusive notions of citizenship. And although these are more likely to be dynamic, idiosyncratic, and short-lived, new Web sites are springing into existence every day. The Internet makes it easier to learn about foreign perspectives, and although they can be as hidebound as their domestic counterparts, they help reveal the immense diversity of viewpoints on earth as well as the universality of concerns facing people everywhere.

Are there examples of de facto global citizenship? Organizations like ‘‘No person is illegal’’ and the ‘‘Without Borders’’ groups are getting closer to that ideal. Are there practical experiments that could be done now? The growth of universal declarations, supporting human rights, for example, helps explain why the time might be fairly ripe for thinking like this. The concept of global citizenship currently lacks the administrative and legalistic trappings of national citizenship. Nevertheless, from Diogenes to the present day, the pursuit and adoption of global citizenship, however demeaned and underinstitutionalized it is at present, continues to provide a compelling vision to millions of people around the world— people who are officially noted as belonging to individual, specific countries. The bottom line, however, for everybody interested in these issues is that people must think beyond the borders of the countries in which they hold citizenship.

As with other patterns in this category, the journey toward the goal will be incremental, perennial, lurching, and met by setbacks as well as successes. There are tasks for many people with a wide variety of roles and responsibilities; professionals like lawyers, think tank and NGO staff, government officials, and academics can engage with the public on these issues in addition to their more specialized and technical concerns. There are hosts of organizations and projects in which people can engage. Communication with people in other countries is especially important because this helps ensure that people realize that people in other countries are not abstract nonpersons. This, of course, represents a major hurdle: many people because of poverty, language barriers, or other reasons cannot easily engage with people outside their region.

Solution: 

Martha Nussbaum, in her 1994 discussion on the Stoics in ‘‘Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism,’’ refers to the fact that each of us dwells, in effect, in two communities: the local community of our birth and the community of human argument and aspiration that ‘‘is truly great and truly common, in which we look neither to this corner nor to that, but measure the boundaries of our nation by the sun’’ (Seneca, De Otio).

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Citizenship is the formal relationship between a person and a country and often is described in terms of rights and responsibilities. The idea has shifted over time, from Greek city-state to modern nation-state. Citizenship often determines access to health care, education, and other rights that arguably should be universal. The journey towards global citizenship will be incremental, perennial, lurching, and will be met by setbacks as well as successes.

Pattern status: 
Released

Health as a Universal Right

Pattern ID: 
870
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
5
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

The crisis in health care worldwide has reached catastrophic proportions. Each day 9,000 people die from AIDS and 11,000 children die from malnutrition. Over one billion people have no access to clean water and half the people in the world live on under $2 (US) per day. The worsening conditions of the world's impoverished people provide almost ideal conditions for the cultivation of disease, including those that could reach epidemic or pandemic proportions. In addition, a somewhat invisible epidemic of depression and other mental illnesses are taking a heavy toll on people throughout the developing world.

Context: 

The economic divisions between people have become astronomical — and they are still widening. Within this context, the majority of people are literally living from one day to the next. Understandably, the health of these people is severely compromised. People everywhere and in all walks of life have cause for alarm.

Discussion: 

Environmental changes are adding additional strains to the already imperiled lives of the world's poorest people. "Droughts will worsen. We will see deforestation, forest fires, a loss of diversity, and degradation of the environment" according to Michel Jarraud, secretary general of the World Meteorological Organization" (Stevenson, 2006). Not surprisingly, the poorest — and hence most vulnerable — people are often the first victims of the severely declining standards of health in much of the developing world. As Paul Epstein of Harvard Medical School said, "Today climate instability and the exhaustion of resources (forests, soils, water, biodiversity), together with the growing inequity and deepening poverty, are resulting in the emergence, resurgence and redistribution of infectious disease, stalking humans, plants and animals. The conditions are not sustainable, and the mounting social and economic costs are creating convergent agendas among members of civil society, international institutions and the economic sector."

Why are things different today? For one thing the sheer number of people on the planet seems to be approaching the limits to the world's capacities. Unfortunately the trends are all heading in the wrong direction. Furthermore people everywhere are more tightly connected. It is no longer true that we live in isolated communities. The tight connections, although remote, give rise to "causes" (although diffuse and multiple) that are often far away from the person who ultimately falls ill.

Clearly humankind has a moral obligation to establish health as a human right. That is a reasonable first step. More importantly, humankind has the obligation to act forcefully and diligently as if it actually believed that health was an inalienable human right. However, as Garrett and Rosenstein report, global health as an issue is "not only for do-gooders." They go on to say that, "A self-interest component to the global health debate has clearly emerged — thankfully, because purely altruistic efforts often fall short of international support and sustainability. The interconnected nature of the world makes ignorance of issues such as deadly infectious diseases not only immoral, but self-destructive."

Health must not, however, be viewed solely as providing medical care after disaster or disease strikes. While it's true that a pill or injection can save a life, the person whose life has just been saved will soon find him or herself back in an environment that leads inexorably to poor health, compromised ability to work gainfully, and a diminished life-span. Nor is health something that can be attained solely through research. A focus on "the cure" for this disease or that disease is a typically a type of welfare program for western researchers. It's a search for a magic" silver bullet" or technocratic approach that, while often very important, will be only effective in conjunction with other approaches.

Extreme and persistent poverty is the primary cause of ill-health and premature death around the world. If people weren't in desperate poverty, if they earned an adequate living, the incidence of disease would plummet. Especially today health is linked to poverty. This poverty is not confined to individuals, but covers large sections of the world's rural areas, towns and cities and, indeed, entire countries. If, for example, a person enters the hospital in many parts of the world he or she is likely to find infection, unsanitary conditions and a scarcity of drugs, bandages, surgical equipment and other vital medical supplies.

Paul Farmer is one the most articulate and hardest-hitting advocate for health care for all of the world's inhabitants, especially those who are the poorest and most vulnerable. He identifies structural inequalities that often originate in the first world as sources of great of the misery that now exists in the third. The "roots" of the problem are likely to lead further upstream than exposure to a microbe in polluted water to a bank in London, an energy company in Houston, or a government office in Washington, D.C. As part of his work and study, Farmer traveled to prisons in the former Soviet Union and to Chiapas, Haiti, and other marginalized locations around the world to work with people in need of medical care and to witness firsthand how health conditions were being met — or not met — around the world. In his book, Pathologies of Power (2003), he proposes a "new agenda" for health and human rights" that includes the following five facets:

• Make Health and Healing the Symbolic Core of the Agenda
• Make Provision of Services Central to the Agenda
• Establish New Research Agendas
• Achieve Independence from Powerful Governments and Bureaucracies
• Secure More Resources for Health and Human Rights

Farmer's "new agenda" is comprehensive, holistic and ambitious. At the same time, it seems that anything less would be insufficient. NGOs and philanthropists, no matter how well-heeled, will not be able to do this work by themselves. The multi-pronged approach resembles the Open Research and Action Network pattern — but writ very large. He is not unrealistic about the chances for success. He lists a number of significant challenges to this agenda including the possibility that increasing the involvement of NGOs will help hasten, "the withdrawal of states from the basic business of providing housing, education, and medical resources usually means further erosion of the social and economic rights of the poor."

The "new agenda" would take a mammoth effort that would integrate direct care, research, and popular mobilization. Ultimately Farmer's recommendations could provide an umbrella for many types of efforts. Health care professionals could take Sabbaticals in developing countries to assist with health care. Religious people could put renewed vigor into projects to alleviate human suffering. The 400+ billionaires in the US (and everybody) could follow the lead of Bill Gates and others and donate substantial amounts of their amassed riches to the effort. At the same time, the rest of us could agitate for health-related initiatives including cheaper drugs from multi-national pharmacuetical companies and authentic foreign aid that wasn't based on arms or oil.

Garrett and Rosenstein (2005) point out that, "with very few exceptions, the disease amplifiers in the world today are manmade and therefore humanly controllable. ... exotic animal markets, unclean urban water supplies, lack of proper sewage systems, and unstable, conflict-ridded environments provide excellent breeding grounds for infectious diseases to spread and wreak havoc on vulnerable populations. Yet it would be short sided to think of infectious disease as a problem for solely the poor and powerless. These diseases do not discriminate; they are undeterred by state borders, party affiliation, or socioeconomic status. With air travel and human migration on the rise, so too is the possibility that deadly microbes can and will circumnavigate the globe with speed and precision."

Solution: 

Humankind is faced with the massive problem of declining public health. To be successful it will need to redirect its resources from activities that exacerbate the crisis to ones that overcome it. Ideologies, however dear, as well as ingrained habits and pursuit of short-term "self-interest" are likely to defeat any grand initiatives such as this. Regardless of whether that suspicion reflects cynicism or just realism is irrelevant: we must persevere.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

The worldwide health care crisis is profound. Each day 9,000 people die from AIDS and 11,000 children die from malnutrition. We need to redirect our resources from activities that exacerbate the crisis to ones that overcome it. Ideologies, ingrained habits, and pursuit of short-term "self-interest" work against the establishment of Health as a Universal Right.

Pattern status: 
Released

Social Dominance Attenuation

Pattern ID: 
830
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
4
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Problem: 

Social dominance is arguably at the heart of many — if not most — of humankind's most shameful enterprises. It is embodied in ideology, economics, policy, education, the media, social perception and interactions, culture, and, even, our technological artifacts. In general the less-dominant group will have fewer opportunities for advancement, have poorer health and shorter life-spans, smaller incomes, higher likelihood of being incarcerated and live under more violent conditions than people do in more-dominant groups. Society as a whole too suffers from high level of inequality: the more equal the distribution of assets, the more economic growth the society will have (Dugan, 2004; World Bank, 2004). Political violence is also tied to social inequality (Gurr, 1971). At its most extreme, social dominance encourages oppression and wars, genocide, mob violence, and environmental destruction.

Context: 

This pattern pertains to any society, region, or organization where social dominance is entrenched; in other words, virtually everywhere.

Discussion: 

As humans evolved our species unwittingly took on characteristics that have persisted for centuries. Over the millennia, some aspects of our genetic makeup, as well as some psychological and cultural characteristics were encouraged while others were halted or slowed. As we all know, these basic changes generally came about hundreds of thousands of years ago when humans lived in small numbers and clung together in small bands for survival. That situation, once the norm, is now present only in the rarest of circumstances. We have been bred for a time and place that existed eons ago, an era that could only be recreated through pandemics, global war, massive climate change, or some combination.

One consequence of this is the myriad institutional structures that perpetuate dominance of one group over others. The authors of a recent book on social dominance (Sidaneous and Pratto, 1999) make the case that our social psychology seems to propel us naturally towards oppression. Unfortunately at least for those of us who believe that racism and other insidious "isms" would make excellent candidates for the dustbins of history, there are several factors that help keep social dominance in vogue. The first is that there does seem to be a measurable propensity ("generalized ethnocentrism") that shows up in some percentage of any population for strong group identification; people in this group believe that their group is superior to others and that they must stick together. When in positions of power they generally promote laws and attitudes that favor their group over others. They will also encourage and cleave to a variety of "legitimizing myths," such as social Darwinism ("survival of the fittest"), manifest destiny, "clash of civilizations" (Huntington, 1993) and a myriad of racial, gender, and ethnic stereotypes, as "social frames" that help perpetuate social dominance. The second is that racial (and other) stereotypes are easily and readily (and subconsciously) learned, generally at an early age before advanced cognitive abilities come into play that could question the accuracy and the value of the stereotypes. Third, the stereotyping "trigger" is effortlessly and (again) subconsciously activated when "appropriate," thus making these people the hapless targets of manipulative politicians and others who can specifically reach out to these people with tailored messages. Finally, unfortunately, there is some evidence that people in dominated groups, due to a combination of factors, will in many cases, adopt characteristics that are specified by the stereotype thus helping unconsciously to reinforce the stereotype ("behavioral asymmetry"). All of these factors, then, help support, at least indirectly, the maintenance of institutions that operate under a variety of processes, mechanisms, and biases that serve to maintain the machinery of social dominance.

Once the holistic model that Sidaneous and Pratto propose (possibly with modifications) is well understood, it should be possible to run society's social domination machine’s "in reverse." Along these lines, it's important to note that according to many people who study this field, approaches to attenuating social dominance will require widespread, multi-sectoral actions that include integrated legislative, economic, and educational efforts among (and across) dominant and non-dominant groups. Here is a list of approaches that can be undertaken — while keeping in mind that articulation  between these approaches will be critical if any progress in reducing social dominance is to be made over time.

  • Role-reversal exercises (examples include "Walk a Mile in their shoes" where state legislators “became” welfare recipients for a day and an event in Wisconsin where youths in disadvantaged neighborhoods interrogated judges and police officers in a mock courtroom situation.
  • Additional research. Identify, for example, "markers” or other classification schemes that “sort” people into two groups and see how the "markers" are used implicitly or explicitly in policy, the media, etc. etc.
  • Development and promulgation of social frames like "love thy neighbor, turn the other cheek, human family, equal opportunity, and multiculturalism help characterize the theme.
  • Fighting local discrimination in, for example, education or public service.)
  • Moving beyond tokenism. There is evidence that hiring one or two people from a less-dominant group can actually backfire.
  • Childhood education. Children need multicultural education and familiarity with different cultures and groups. Seeing a diverse society at an early age and not growing up with active stereotyping is good.
  • Lawsuits as a tool to fight social dominance by business and government.
  • “Disciplining” the media by fighting stereotypes solidarity networks. Establishing networks of people from diverse communities to inform each other, advocate and Religious connection. Remind people of their religion’s commitment to human rights and brotherhood and would with in the church for social change.

 

According to Sidaneous and Pratto, "Arbitrary-set divisions" (those divisions devised by cultures themselves according to their own decisions like caste, religion, and race, unlike divisions shared by all cultures, basically gender and age, upon which to discriminate) "largely only occur in societies in which people are able to generate and sustain an economic surplus." These societies employ division of labor that, apparently, leads to various forms of arbitrary-set based social dominance techniques and institutions. One of the most difficult challenges of such a society is checking the power of its most powerful members.

While many people would argue (myself included) that some degree of social dominance will probably always occur in society, there are also many people (myself included) who believe that a meaningful attenuation in social dominance is not only possible but necessary. Fighting against social dominance will always be an uphill battle: the forces that will rally against your campaign are, by definition, powerful and well-financed, and cozy with the media, government, and other elites. They will also have a ready supply of slogans handy to bring their minions into the fray. Sometimes trumping our own "intrinsic nature" to favor "our own, ' and, even, going against what may seem like "our own best interest" (maximizing short-term gain at another's expense) is the best long-range approach. And approaches that are actually win-win should be accompanied with public education that pre-empts the inevitable claim that the approach is discriminatory.

Although social dominance may be intrinsic to humankind, there are some grounds for hope. Some countries, Sweden, for example, have more-or-less eliminated social dominance based on gender. Studies relating to health care in Japan, New Zealand, Denmark and Sweden, also show that proper health care can be reached for all of a nation's citizens even if some social inequality still exists within that society.

Solution: 

Serious, ongoing and engaged commitment to social non-dominance is the core to "solving" the problems of social dominance. A society that genuinely wants to reduce its own inequity is obviously more likely to actually adopt new policies and perspectives over the long haul than one who begrudges every dime spend on schools for poor people or health care for the elderly and the foreign-born. Understanding how the “machines” of social dominance function provides important clues for the development of a counter machine.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Social dominance is at the heart of many of humankind's most shameful enterprises. It is sustained through ideology, economics, policy, education, the media, social perception and interactions, culture, and technology. Understanding how social dominance is maintained can provide important clues as to how it can be countered.

Pattern status: 
Released

The Good Life

Pattern ID: 
776
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
3
Gary Chapman
University of Texas at Austin
Version: 
2
Problem: 

"What is the good life?" An answer to that question has so many variations today that the competition between answers can often paralyze the imaginations of people who want to implement positive social change. How can one break through the noise and violence of such competition and begin moving global society in a positive and deliberate direction?

Context: 

People who hope for a better world feel the need for a shared vision of the "good life," a vision that is flexible enough for innumerable individual circumstances but comprehensive enough to unite people in optimistic, deliberate, progressive social change. Ideally, this shared vision of the "good life" should promote and sustain conviviality and solidarity among people, as well as feelings of individual effectiveness, self-worth and purpose. A shared vision of the "good life" is never complete, but is always adapting; it should be "in harmony with the human condition," which means that it encompasses suffering, loss and conflict as well as pleasures, reverence and common goals of improvement. An emergent framework for the modern "good life" is based on some form of humanism, particularly pragmatic or civic humanism, but with room for a spiritual dimension of the mind that does not seek domination over the minds of others. Finally, the environmental crises of the planet require a broad vision of a "good life" that can harmonize human aspirations with natural limits. And all of this needs to be an ongoing and open-ended "conversation," best suited to small geographic groups, such as towns and neighborhoods, that can craft and then live an identity that reflects their vision of a "good life."

Discussion: 

Ever since people first began to understand the implications of the time-limits of the human life, there has been speculation on what constitutes the best use of this time, a human lifespan -- in other words, what is the "good life?"

Throughout human history and even today, the answer to this question, for most people, is provided by God and by ritual. That is, the fundamental guide for how to live life is religion expressed through ritual, not only the formal rituals of religious practice but the small daily rituals of an existence permeated with conventions derived from religious guidance. For billions of people today, this is so ingrained in their psyches that doubt about what constitutes the "good life" is absent -- or else a personal secret.

But there is are many other meanings attached to the phrase "the good life." Aristotle argued that the good life is the "bios theoretikos," the contemplative life, in which the aristos, the "best man," spends his life contemplating the order of the cosmos and his place in it. This was transformed by Christianity into the life of the cloister, in which monks and nuns were meant to spend their lives contemplating the wonder of God's work. But it was also embedded into the practice of philosophy in the Western tradition, both metaphysical and otherwise, so that there is still today a strong Aristotelian association between the "good life" and the life of the mind.

It was in Renassiance Italy that Western thinkers first ventured a potential break between the idea of the "good life" and religion, by suggesting that the best example of a good life was a man of "virtu," or the earthly qualities of courage, deliberate action and command -- someone who would be remembered in history, rather than rewarded in heaven. Machiavelli derided Christianity as a belief of meekness and submission, while he advocated a robust republican humanism that celebrated worldly success and the ability to turn one's life into a kind of work of art, not unlike the famous works of art of his time.

The great break of modernity, the separation of modern thinking with that of the past, is the idea that the "good life" is a matter of individual choice -- "the pursuit of happiness," as the U.S. Declaration of Independence puts it. English rationalists, Marxian communists and even conservative thinkers like Edmund Burke all shared this premise: the goal of life is happiness and self-fulfillment.

Thus it has been the explosion of interpretations of the path to happiness that has produced so many competing conceptions of the good life. For many people today, the phrase "the good life" conjures up fantasies of unlimited wealth, leisure and luxury. This has certainly been the interpretation of marketers in a consumerist economy like our own.

On the other hand, for large numbers of people, the "good life" means simplicity and even austerity, an escape from the stress and bustle of urban life, pure air and water, the conviviality of a small rural community and good health. This is a model promoted by a series of books written in the 1930s by Scott and Helen Nearing, who moved to a farm in Vermont in 1932 and then published "The Good Life," a book about "simple, frugal and purposeful living," which was followed by more books and national speaking tours. The Good Life Center, a modern example of the Nearings' work, is still in operation in Harborside, Maine. Elements of this interpretation of the good life are now found in the "Slow Food" movement of southern Europe (and in some groups in the U.S.), and its spin-off in Italy, the Slow Cities (Slow Cittá) movement. This trend has even acquired a label: "downshifting."

The challenge of the current situation in the modern world is to develop the vision of a "good life" that is not anti-technological nor anti-spiritual, but which is serious about the limits of the global enviroment and critical of the emptiness, anomie and hectic "busy-ness" of consumerism. But cities are not going away -- they're growing, around the world -- so we need models of the "good life" that embrace urban living; indeed, population density is likely to be a necessity in the future.

There is an emerging concept of what might be called "reverent humanism," borrowing terms from philosophers Paul Woodruff (Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue) and Luc Ferry (What Is the Good Life?). This proposes a blend of rational and practical humanism with an appreciation of the transcendent, whether it be beauty, the law, or the ineffable spirit of human perseverance. Such a worldview depends on the support of a social context, a community of equals engaged in open-ended dialog that rejects absolute knowledge -- a modernized version of the res publica, the ideal of the Italian Renaissance. The inspiring ideas of the "Slow Food" movement bring in the pleasures of good food, drink, conviviality and ecological balance, while globalization and communications technologies -- especially the Internet -- make possible a sharing of innovations and the development of an appreciation for diversity and peace.

Solution: 

A revitalization of the idea of the "good life" should reinvigorate the ancient appeal of civic humanism, or "reverent humanism," that can embrace human potential, limits to consumerism but yet technological innovation, diversity and transcendence. The development of such an ideal should be a project -- explicit or implicit -- among groups dedicated to progressive social change. And "living the change you want" should become an essential part of the mission of all such groups.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

People who hope for a better world feel the need for a shared vision of The Good Life. The environmental crises of the planet require a broad vision of a good life that harmonizes human aspirations and natural limits. A framework for the modern good life should be based on some form of humanism with room for a spiritual dimension that does not seek domination.

Pattern status: 
Released

The Commons

Pattern ID: 
453
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
2
David Bollier
Author
Version: 
2
Problem: 

One of the biggest problems in contemporary life is the unchecked growth of market values as a way to govern resources and ourselves. This is resulting in the privatization and commodification or "enclosure" of the commons. Resources that morally or legally belong to everyone are increasingly coming under the control of markets. Not only does enclosure result in higher prices and the need to ask for permission to use something previously available to all, it shifts ownership and control to private companies. The market efficiencies that businesses seek can be illusory, however, because they often depend upon unacknowledged subsidies from the commons (for example, discount access to public resources) and the displacement of costs onto the commons (pollution, social disruption, harm to future generations). Enclosure does not add value in the aggregate; it merely privatizes value at the expense of the common wealth.

Context: 

"The commons" is a useful term for contemporary political discourse because it provides a new lexicon for re-situating market activity in a social and political context. It helps us identify resources that should not be alienated for market use, but should remain non-propertized and "owned" (in a civic or democratic sense) by everyone. Our culture has no serious vocabulary for contextualizing "the free market" in a social framework; it assumes that it is a universal, ahistorical force of nature. The commons helps rectify this conceptual problem by offering a rich, countervailing template to the market paradigm, one that can speak about the economic and legal aspects of a commons as intelligibly as its social and personal aspects.

Discussion: 

The commons insists that certain things should not be alienated that is, sold and converted into money. Thus, it is inappropriate to express the value of a worker's life or an endangered species as a dollar sum, in a cost-benefit analysis. It may be morally repugnant to sell off the "naming rights" of public institutions much as it is considered unacceptable to allow people to sell their bodies, babies, ova or genes. The commons gives us a language for talking about extra-market values and their importance. The commons, for example, allows us to talk about the human necessities of life food, water, fuel, medicine that may otherwise be seen as market commodities alone. The commons allows us to talk about the need for open, non-propertized spaces available to all; if too much of that space for example, scientific knowledge, musical works, cultural symbols is "locked up" through copyrights, patents or contracts, it can greatly impede future creativity and progress. We are already seeing the effects of such enclosure in medical research as a result of overly broad patents on "upstream" research. By contrast, when information and creativity are non-propertized and non-monetized as we see most frequently on the Internet the resulting collaborations and exchanges generate a huge surplus value that can be enjoyed by everyone, and not be privatized. This is one reason there is such an epic struggle underway on the Internet non-market modes of creativity and production are frequently more efficient in a strict economic sense, compared to conventional "real world" markets. There is a cornucopia of the commons, not a tragedy, as economists otherwise claim. Despite the different ways in which commons and market create value, the two do not necessarily operate in separate and distinct spheres, but are interdependent. The point is to strike an appropriate balance between the two so that the value-creating capacities of each can be optimized. There are a wide variety of effective commons-management models that belie the tragedy of the commons metaphor invoked by Garrett Hardin in his famous 1968 essay. While Hardin was talking about an open access regime in which no one owns or manages a shared resource, an actual commons has specific rules and social norms for preventing over-use, excluding outsiders, and managing the resource in long-term, sustainable ways. Increasingly, the Internet is the host for countless self-organized commons such as free and open source software, social networking communities, Wikipedia, Craigslist, and websites for sharing photos, videos and other creative works. One useful tool in creating these commons are Creative Commons licenses, which enable ordinary people to freely share their creative works while retaining copyrights for commercial purposes. The public library and the land trust are familiar, highly effective types of commons. More people are starting to realize that public spaces like parks, community gardens, farmers' markets and festivals are also important to the economic and social health of a community. There is a dawning awareness that commons-based infrastructure like wireless Internet access is a great way to use a public resource, the airwaves, to help people connect with each other. There are many other types of legal and institutional solutions for managing the commons, although most are not mentally grouped with other legal or institutional models as commons solutions. It is time for more people to see the kinship of these solutions and their holistic advantages over so-called free market.

Solution: 

Using "the commons" as a new discourse helps us re-frame the terms of discussion for many issues and declare our personal stake in protecting shared public resources. It helps draw new linkages among disparate market enclosures, and in this sense, helps fragmented public-interest constituencies develop a new, shared language. At the same time the discourse of the commons validates a number of specific governance models — civic institutions, stakeholder trusts, legal mechanisms, social customs and norms — that can help us protect and manage our common assets effectively. The emerging commons sector won't replace corporations or markets, but it will complement and temper them. In so doing, it will provide benefits corporations can't supply: healthy ecosystems, economic security, stronger communities and a participatory culture. And it will curb the corporate invasion of realms that we hold dear — nature, our minds, our food and our democracy.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

The human genome, seeds, and groundwater should belong to everybody —not corporations. The public library, community garden, farmer's market, and land trust are familiar and highly effective local Commons. The emerging commons sector provides benefits that corporations can’t provide such as healthy ecosystems, economic security, stronger communities and a participatory culture.

Pattern status: 
Released

Civic Intelligence

Pattern ID: 
401
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
1
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project
Version: 
2
Problem: 

The human race has multiplied tremendously since its origins in Africa millions of years ago. During its stay on earth, it has changed the world dramatically through social and technological innovation. In spite of great success in increasing its numbers and gaining dominion over much of the planet, the problems that humankind has created—war, famine, environmental degradation, injustice, and a host of others —may be increasingly immune to its attempts to correct them. Unfortunately there is ample evidence that the economic and political elites of the world are not able—or willing—to address these problems effectively, humanely, and ecologically responsibly. Civil society is emerging as an important force to address these problems, but in spite of best intentions, civil society efforts are often disjointed, duplicative, inflexible, ineffectual, and destructively competitive.

Context: 

The social and the natural environment face profound challenges at the dawn of the twenty-first century. Society often develops intelligent collective responses to collective problems, often through citizen activism. Civil society and ordinary citizens are often at the forefront of the creation and adoption of new paradigms, ideas, tactics, and technologies that are used to address shared problems and create a better future.

Discussion: 

In early 2003, days before the United States invaded Iraq, Robert Muller, former assistant secretary general of the United Nations, called attention to the incipient otential of the citizenry: ‘‘Never before in the history of the world has there been a global visible, public, viable, open dialogue and conversation about the very legitimacy of war’’ ( Twist 2003). He was describing the unprecedented movement that arose simultaneously in hundreds of places around the world. What this movement represents is the advent of an immensely powerful force. Muller called it a ‘‘merging, surging, voice of the people of the world.’’ And James Moore (2003), a multifaceted scholar, activist, and businessperson, called this same phenomenon the ‘‘second superpower’’ whose ‘‘beautiful but deeply agitated face . . . is the worldwide peace campaign,’’ and ‘‘the body of the movement is made up of millions of people concerned with a broad agenda that includes social development, environmentalism, health, and human rights.’’ Both are expressions of pent-up desire and a will to work for a better world, and both are manifestations of civic intelligence.

To meet the need for civic problem solving, governments, companies, nongovernmental organizations ( NGOs) citizens, and ordinary people are beginning to acknowledge the vast problems that humankind now faces and are devising new strategies, tactics, and paradigms to ameliorate them. To help with these daunting tasks, a growing array of sociotechnical information and communication systems is being developed. People and organizations need both general paradigms and specific ideas to help them devise tactics and strategies that further their objectives while working cooperatively with other people and organizations.

Civic intelligence, like Daniel Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence (1995) or the various types of intelligences identified by Howard Gardner in Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences (1983) (or even erotic intelligence, the cover story in a recent edition of the Utne Reader (September/October 2003)), is a type of intelligence, one with a specific focus; it can be used to explore and invigorate a flexible and powerful competence that goes beyond the traditional notion of intelligence (which is typically equated to what IQ tests measure) in several important ways. Civic intelligence is a type of intelligence that focuses on the betterment of society as a whole, not just on individual aggrandizement. Moreover since it is a capability of society as a whole, its manifestation is collective and distributed throughout the population. The boundary between one person’s ‘‘intelligence’’ and another person’s ‘‘intelligence’’ is permeable, indistinct, and constantly shifting. Ideas in your mind today might be central to my understanding of the world tomorrow. How ‘‘intelligent’’ would one person be without interacting with other people directly (through discussion or argument) or indirectly (through reading books, watching television, or pondering works of art) or with the nonhuman world (observing nature, for example).

Civic Intelligence builds on what we know about how people learn and maintain knowledge about the world and their place within it. Intelligent behavior in individuals is rich and multifaceted. It involves perception, monitoring, deliberating, remembering and forgetting, categorizing, coming up with new ideas and modifying old ones, negotiating and discussing, making decisions, testing hypotheses, and experimenting. Society as a whole engages in analogous activities, and these are embedded in our institutions, traditions, artifacts, and conversations. That these activities of collective intelligence exist is indisputable. Less obvious but also true is the fact that they are all subject to change. The idea that they could and should be consciously improved is the heart of this pattern. This recommendation is bolstered by the findings of Jared Diamond, the prominent historian and author at the University of California at Los Angeles, who has extensively studied how societies face challenges with potentially catastrophic consequences. Somewhat incredibly, Diamond’s research reveals that the ‘‘commonest and most surprising’’ of the four ways in which societies fail to address their problems is their ‘‘failure even to try to solve a problem that it has perceived,’’ even one that ultimately results in that society’s collapse. To avoid that mistake, we must go beyond examining how we as a society collectively think and take a critical look at how our knowledge and ideas are—and could be—channeled into actions.

The number of organizations exhibiting civic intelligence today is vast and growing. There were ten times more transnational advocacy organizations in 2000 then there were in 1900 ( Keck and Sikkink 1998). Not only are these organizations more numerous, but they are increasingly thoughtful and forward looking. While in the past, protest may have been simply opposed to something, it is not uncommon today for organizations to develop sophisticated analyses and policy recommendations. In an earlier exploration of civic intelligence (Schuler 2001), six dimensions were identified (orientation, organization, engagement, intelligence, products and projects, and resources) in which organizations and movements that demonstrate civic intelligence are likely to differ from those that do not. The set of attributes associated with those dimensions that tend to characterize civic intelligence organizations and movements is a first approximation of a descriptive model of civic intelligence. Some notable examples (among tens of thousands) include the worldwide Indymedia network, the World Social Forum, the Global Fund for Women, Jubilee 2000, Science for the People, and New Tactics in Human Rights. Civic intelligence can also be manifested locally. The graphic at the beginning of the pattern, for example, shows how neighborhood art —in this case a mural about the causes and effects of asthma—can be educational and lead to political engagement and other proactive civic activities. Many of these efforts are of necessity holistic, multidisciplinary, and entrepreneurial since the people and organizations that the efforts would ideally engage with cannot necessarily be expected to do what might be considered the right thing. In an interesting turn of events, the idea of collective intelligence, which is not necessarily aligned with civic intelligence (also a form of collective intelligence), is now receiving attention from various quarters. One group, the cyber pundits, are hoping it will be the ‘‘next big thing.’’ Tim O’Reilly (2006), publisher of O’Reilly books and the man who coined the expression ‘‘Web 2.0,’’ defines it as ‘‘the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the Internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform. ‘‘There is another side of this growing interest in collective intelligence as well. This approach is less concerned with making money and more about solving global problems. While these two groups have different aspirations, both of their revolutionary visions are generally based on side-effects or technical aspects, such as new algorithms, semantic webs, or tipping points. Both groups seem to place less faith in the value of collaboratively working together and thereby trying to address the problems that humankind is facing by actually addressing the problems.

A complementary model (illustrated below and described in more detail at http://www.publicsphereproject.org/civint/model-functional.html) of civic intelligence that depicts its primary functional processes has also been proposed (Schuler 2001). This model (or framework) is an amalgam of concepts from social change theory and models of education and human learning. The model is aimed at providing useful exploration in these areas as opposed to offering an algorithm or mechanism that always behaves accurately and with the prescribed result. Generally the two models are to be used in tandem: the descriptive model describes the what, while the functional model describes the how. The functional model contains three main components: the environment, which includes everything that is relevant to the organization yet outside the organization; the mental model (or core), which corresponds to the sum of knowledge that the organization uses; and the remaining constituents of the organization, including its resources (e.g., people) and, most important, the interactive processes under the control of the organization that link the environment and the mental model. The functional model contains eight types of interactive processes that a movement, organization, or other group exhibits when engaging in civic intelligence:

1. Monitoring. How the organization acquires new relevant information nonintrusively.
2. Discussion and deliberation. How organizations discuss issues and determine common agendas, ‘‘issue frames’’ ( Keck and Sikkink 1998), and action plans with other organizations. The mental model of any participants or the organization itself can change as a result of the interactions.
3. Engagement. How the organization attempts to make changes through varying degrees of cooperation and combativeness.
4. Resource transfer. How noninformational resources like volunteers and money are acquired from the environment.
5. Interpretation of new information. How new information is considered and how it ultimately becomes (or does not become) part of the core. New information can also include information about the organization.
6. Maintenance of mental model (includes resource management). How the organization maintains its organizational integrity by consciously and unconsciously resisting change over time.
7. Planning and plan execution. How a campaign is initiated, carried out, and monitored.
8. Modification of mental model. How the core itself is scrutinized by participants in the organization and modified. Another term for this is organizational learning.

The effectiveness of each of these processes will help determine the effectiveness of the entire organization. For that reason, it is important to develop surveys and other types of diagnostic tools that can help organizations use the civic intelligence paradigm effectively. This information could be key in evaluating actions or developing plans. Some of the other uses of this knowledge are inventorying civic intelligence initiatives of geographical regions or thematic activist areas, convening interorganizational workshops, designing curricula, planning campaigns, or even developing new organizations. One of the most important uses of this information is metacognition: examining and evaluating how the processes are used within an organization and changing them as necessary.

The physical, social, and intellectual environment is changing rapidly. Intelligence, more than anything else, describes the capacity to influence and adapt to its environment. Organizations with civic missions have the responsibility to keep their principles intact while interacting effectively with other organizations, both aligned with and opposed to their own beliefs and objectives.

Solution: 

An effective and principled civic intelligence is necessary to help humankind deal collectively with its collective challenges. People need to develop and set into motion theories, models, and tools of civic intelligence that can help integrate thought and action more effectively.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Civic Intelligence describes how well groups of people address civic ends through civic means. It asks the critical question: Is society smart enough to meet the challenges it faces? Civic intelligence requires learning and teaching. It also requires meta-cognition — thinking about and actually improving how we think and work together.

Pattern status: 
Released
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